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Home & garden.

Updated: 9 May 2022

How to grow foxgloves and best varieties

Foxgloves are a beautiful wildflower that pollinators love. Discover our best foxglove varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas
Foxglove

Foxgloves are one of our most popular spring wildflowers. They’re nectar-rich and great for bees, and although they don’t often survive after they’ve flowered – as they’re usually biennials – they will self-seed around the garden so you’ll get new plants springing up each year. 

To get specific colours or varieties you’ll need to buy seeds, but they’re inexpensive and easy to grow. Breeding over the years has given us varieties with larger flowers carried all around the stems rather than just on one side, plus a great range of colours and flower shapes.

Which? Gardening magazine grew a range of popular varieties to see which would give us the best display.


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Key facts

PLANT TYPE Biennial

POSITION Part shade or sun

SOIL Moist but well-drained

How to grow foxgloves: month by month

JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJune




SOWPLANT/FLOWERING
JulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember
PLANT




Best foxglove varieties

Which? members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you’re not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for foxgloves

Variety nameOverall ratingHeight x spread (cm)Flower impactOverall displayDuration of floweringShape of plantPlant vigourAttraction to beesPests & disease
100 x 50

130 x 50

75 x 45

125 x 60

60 x 45

80 x 40

110 x 50

USING THE TABLE: Best Buys are in red; Recommended in blue. Overall rating: the more stars the better. Rating ignores price and is based on: flower impact 20%; overall display 20%; duration of flowering 15%; shape of plants 15%; attraction to bees 10%; pests and diseases 10%; vigour 10%. Overall display is an assessment of the number of flower spikes and the amount of flowers out on a spike at one time. Shape of plant is an assessment of whether stems were floppy and untidy or upright.

How we test foxgloves

The Which? Gardening magazine researchers chose 20 foxglove varieties that represented the most popular series and varieties, and some more recent introductions, as well as the native foxglove, Digitalis purpurea. We sowed the seeds in a greenhouse and grew them on under cover. We then hardened off the young plants in a coldframe and planted seven plants of each variety outside. We assessed them for the impact, size and shape of the flower heads, and number of spikes; the vigour and strength of the plants' stems; and whether they were susceptible to pests and diseases.

When to sow

Sow the tiny foxglove seeds in May by scattering them thinly over the surface of prewatered Best Buy compost for sowing seeds in a pot or half tray. 

Cover very lightly with compost or vermiculite. Keep them in a well-lit position at about 15-20°C. 

Compost should be kept moist. Place the seed tray in water rather than watering from above, which risks disturbing the seed. 

Germination can be erratic so prick seedlings out into modules or small pots containing a Best Buy compost for raising young plants when they are large enough to handle.

Caring for your plants

Planting

Plant outdoors once the roots have filled the pot or module. Plant into moist but well-drained soil in part-shade or in sun. 

Water in well and during dry spells until established.

Watering 

Water during very dry spells of weather to prevent the roots from drying out.

Deadheading

Unless you’re growing a sterile variety, deadhead your plants after flowering to prevent too many seedlings appearing.

Common growing problems

Slugs and snails

Slugs and snails eat new foxglove growth in spring. Protect with organic slug pellets containing ferric phosphate. Alternatively, you can apply a biological control such as Nemaslug.

Read more about slugs and snails

Aphids

Squash or remove aphids as soon as you see them to prevent colonies building up.

Read more about greenfly

Fungal leaf spots

Leaves can be affected by fungal leaf spots, which appear as brown patches, or powdery mildew, which appears as a white coating on the surface of the leaf. Pick off diseased leaves or spray with a suitable fungicide.